Wednesday, 12 July 2017

An Ode to Kayaking, Camping, Company and the Caledonian Canal

Once upon a time, seven days ago,
An eclectic group of paddlers,
Set off for an adventure,
Their excited faces aglow.
Eight people in all,
Some tall some small,
There was Nigel who with his dry humour and wit,
Along with others planned much of the trip and helped us not quit.
There was Andy who has a very lovely skill,
Of being at ease with all & gourmet chocolate was our fill,
Mike was a very helpful paddler to all of us,
Made carry straps etc. without any fuss,

Laid back Paul is a fantastic bloke,
He was a friend to all and chilled out with a smoke,
Super Sarah has skills and energy and is fun,
A lovely companion who loch swam in both cloud and sun,
Skillful Owen is really an otter at heart,
He can effortlessly turn a boat upside down pretty smart,
Tenacious Alison paddles and joins in with ease,
A smiley woman to paddle with and will playfully tease,
Vicky is a bit ambitious with packing,
But determination and humour wasn’t generally lacking,

So the journey up commenced, the miles went by and the rain fell down,
We stopped at the services- Nigel read a kids book to us that took away our frown,
We passed stunning scenery around Glen Coe and we smiled,
I started to feel excited about our journey into the wild.
Campsite at Glen Nevis was extremely busy and packed,
We were told by a couple to stay 4 metres away- their humour lacked.
A few tasty beers in the bar, sleep then it was time to begin,
The paddle of the Caledonian Canal with a great big grin.
We left our boats at Neptune’s Staircase- near Fort Will,
The vehicles went to Inverness the others had time to fill,
They saw people of all sorts commence the trip; some young some older,
A man on a barge with a cat on his shoulder…
And a hill was climbed and breakfast was eaten and they relaxed,
The drivers returned with tales of a friendly taxi driver who knew Bear Grylls and gave us Loch facts.
The start of the paddle was marked unexpectedly with a gun-shot sound,
Bugger- the wheels of a c-tug burst- the bang echoed around,
But the rest of the start of the paddle was fine,
We paddled to Loch Lochy to set up camp and drink wine,
The loch was beautiful our wild camp site fantastic,
Sarah and Owen swam, we talked whilst flames licked,
Some of us slept under the stars that night,
It felt like living like this was just right.
The next day the wind had whipped up the loch,
But when we paddled it, it wasn’t as bad of a shock,
The wind died down and we found a good lunch spot,
Despite the midges which were a pain in the bott,
We paddled on down the loch until we reached a boat with a bar on too,
We had a few bevvies and enjoyed the collection that the bar had accrued,
Of swords and light sabers and a model of the Cutty Sark was there also,
Bag pipes played and we paddled off merry looking for another campsite to go,
We found just the ticket a few miles down Loch Oich on the right,
We pitched our tents, watched a deer and drank rum into the night,
The next day dawned and we paddled across the loch,
The weather turned out to be a bit of a knock,
To our spirits as well as big portage walks,
But we arrived in Fort Augustus and got chips with little forks,
We dripped dry in a friendly restaurant and bar,
They let us leave our boats there- we said blimey-ta!
So the kindness of strangers cheered us all up!
We made camp that night and tasty food a and had a sup,
What could we buy in term of Ness tat and silly gifts?
A few bits and bobs and a rubber Ness seemed quite fit,
Haggis and salmon was in our tummys and we wandered down,
To see Loch Ness at the end of the little town,
The next morning dawned and we retrieved our boats,
It was relief that we didn’t need our rain coats,
Ironically the ‘Made in China’ rubber Ness,
Was photographed on the boats by Chinese tourists nonetheless,
We left the busy launch site in glorious sunshine,
Found a beach for lunch- the weather was still fine,
So Sarah and Alison donned their swimming gear,
Swam in the loch without any fear,
The others dozed on the beach and chilled out,
It was calm and blissful- midges pretty much nowt,
The lunch break was long but eventually we moved on,
And paddled beyond Foyers to a spit just beyond,
Set up camp, saw a waterfall then made a fire,
We ate our food then began to tire,
But not before a ‘pant tree’ was created,
To fumigate damp boxers-they were smoke aerated,
The following day we set off across the rest of Loch Ness,
We stopped at Urquart Castle but here I must confess,
We didn’t fancy paying the entry fee for what would be a short viewing,
So we carried on up the loch for a lunch and some ensuing…
Sleep on an abandoned pontoon of wood,
Then on we must go- paddle we should!
Into the choppy waters we went and what fun,
We surfed on the waves into the sun,
Eventually we arrived at Loch End,
Stopped for a photo and I’m not going to pretend,
That I wasn’t sad as the journey was almost over,
Just a small loch to go and a lock to walk over,
Then it would be canal to Inverness,
So we stopped at Dochgarroch for a nightly rest,
It was raining somewhat but we managed to eat,
And have time together on a damp seat,
Setting off on that last morning and paddled our boats,
To Inverness with a little choke in our throats,
For here endeth our adventure of the Great Glen,
But let there be more- the only question is when!
We stopped off at the Lakes to break our journey home,
By now I was smelly and my hair needed a comb,
But what I really think about our little trip,
Is not so much of the rain and the midges nip,
But of the awesome scenery and the fantastic company I had,
Wild camping and boating is definitely not a fad,
But a great way of life and here I must state,
A quote by Nigel which does equate,
To this trip and more and so let us sing-
“Kayaking is a good game- it does everything”

Vicky Sanders
(With thanks to AS for the paddle loan and all my fellow paddlers for a lovely week away!)

Few Top Tips:
We unloaded boats at Fort William end and drove the vehicles to Inverness; got a taxi back to the start. Was about £130 I think but not bad split eight ways.  There are shuttle companies however- just didn’t work out for us with timings etc.
You can get keys for the lock facilities from the canal offices at £10. Really handy for loos and showers if needed.
Some portages v long- wheels help!
There are little campsites along the route with compost loos. Good for camping/lunch spots

Midges can be a pain. Take repellent or stay close to someone who gets bitten more than you as a decoy.